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Restrictionists Are Misleading You about Immigrant Crime Rates

February 1, 2018 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

President Donald Trump never misses an opportunity to depict
unauthorized immigrants—especially of the Hispanic
variety—as “rapists and criminals.” He did it again in his
State of the Union address when he drew attention to two Long
Island teenage girls killed by the El Salvadorian gang MS13. Those
deaths are tragic, but they don’t say much one way or the other
about the propensity of these immigrants to commit crimes.

You wouldn’t, however, know that from restrictionist pundits who
are working overtime to sell the “illegal immigrants are criminals”
narrative. A case in point is former US Civil Rights Commission member Peter
Kirsanow’s
recent piece in National Review purporting
to show that these immigrants are more likely to commit crimes than
the native born. But Kirsanow uses incomplete and cherry-picked
data—and makes rookie mistakes in interpreting it to
boot—that eviscerate the credibility of his case.

Kirsanow is correct that most of the disagreements over the
criminality of undocumented immigrants could be resolved by better
data. But that doesn’t absolve us from accurately reading the data
we do have. Kirsanow, however, does not. His entire case is based
on a gross misreading of the 2011 Government Accountability Office
(GAO) report on the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program
(SCAAP), a federal program that partially reimburses states and
localities for the cost of incarcerating certain criminal
aliens.

Taking amateur analyses
or government spin at face value will hurt peaceful and hardworking
immigrants without making Americans safer.

The SCAAP report shows that in 2009, there were 295,959 criminal
aliens incarcerated in state and local prisons at any given time
that year. From this number, he subtracts those in the country
legally and assumes that the balance gives one the total number of
illegal immigrants incarcerated that year. He compares that number
with the population of illegals in various states to estimate their
crime rates. Then he compares that rate with the crime rate of
citizens to come up with a massively inflated “incarceration rate”
of these aliens.

But here’s the problem with his analysis:

Kirsanow assumed, as some others before him with only a passing
familiarity with these databases, that the 295,959 figure refers to
the number of individuals incarcerated. In fact, it is the total
number of incarcerations. In other words, if a criminal alien was
incarcerated for 10 short sentences, released after each one, and
then re-incarcerated, then that single alien would account for 10
incarcerations under the SCAAP figure for that year. But Kirsnaow
counts that as 10 individuals.

However, when it comes to estimating the incarceration rate of
natives, Kirsanow compares the number of individuals incarcerated
with …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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